So, our last group of titles was a little bit controversial. Of course, the inclusion of Nas’s divisive Hip-Hop Is Dead ruffled a feather or two, and then there’s the question of whether The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a rap album or an R&B album (hell, can’t it be both?) Well, our next group of ten is probably less polarizing, but it’s no less dope!

80) Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo Wanted: Dead or Alive

(Cold Chillin’, 1990)

How talented was the Juice crew? I don’t know that any other hip-hop assemblage can boast (arguably) two of the top ten emcees of all time. While I think Kane may have been the better emcee overall, Kool G. Rap (with assistance from trusty DJ/future Ron Jeremy associate) Polo may have made the more compelling albums. Wanted: Dead or Alive, the duo’s second disc, is an unadulterated classic. While Kool G. Rap is lazily dubbed a gangsta rapper by some (and the chilling “Rikers Island” might back that claim up,) he was a lot more stylistically diverse. The single “Streets Of New York” is a testament to the man’s storytelling skills, and “Talk Like Sex” is easily one of the most hilarious (and nasty) sex songs of all time. Large Professor and Freddie Foxxx made one of their earliest appearances on record via “Money In The Bank,” and “Erase Racism” is a slightly awkward but incredibly lovable posse track featuring Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie. An unheralded East Coast classic, Wanted: Dead or Alive is a must in the collection of any discriminating hip-hop fan. –Big Money

79) Special Ed Youngest In Charge

(Profile, 1989)

Edward Archer was still a Samuel J. Tilden High School (in my hometown of East Flatbush, Brooklyn!) high school student when Youngest In Charge became a hit at the beginning of 1989. Hometown pride aside, the teenage MC’s debut is a pretty impressive piece of work for a cat who couldn’t even vote yet. The dude could flip a verse like few others-check out the list of about 6,000,000 things (I’m exaggerating slightly) he rhymes with “taxing” at the conclusion of the song of the same name. Youngest is also a fairly musically diverse album for its time, jumping from bare bones classics like “I Got It Made” to hip-house (“Club Scene”) and even faux-country (“Hoedown.”) Special Ed later made history as the only emcee to appear on “The Cosby Show,” thanks to his friendship with Malcolm-Jamal Warner.-Big Money

78) DMX It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot

(Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1998)

DMX was Ruff Ryders Entertainment’s biggest artist. X came onto the Hip Hop scene with his debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” in 1998 and changed the game’s flashiness style of rapping to gritty wordplay. There would be four singles released off the album. “Get at Me Dog” was the aggressive lead street single that caught the attention of listeners who quickly became aware of X’s extensions of griminess. “Stop Being Greedy” enforces DMX’s messages of a starving artist. “How’s It Goin Down” features Faith Evans and is not your typical Hip Hop love song. The woman is somewhat the female version of X who is actually having an affair with the artist. X eventually decides it is wrong of him to be dealing with her in that way and releases her. “Ruff Ryders Anthem” is a catchy street anthem with no intentions of softening up DMX’s signature raspy lyrics for commercial success. Despite its hardcore tone, this album sold more than 5 million copies worldwide and goes down in history as a Hip Hop classic.-June

77) Ghostface Killah Supreme Clientele

(Razor Sharp/Epic, 2000)

“This will go down as the last great Wu-Tang Clan album. “Stroke Of Death” is so gangster it makes you wanna stab your baby sister. There’s a record on there that’s just a scratch; Ghostface lets the beat play for four seconds, then keeps bringing it back.”-Chris Rock, as told to Rolling Stone magazine

Kinda hard to argue with Chris (although Ghost’s Fishscale might qualify also.) Actually, Supreme Clientele might be the best Wu solo album. Ghostface and his unorthodox (to put it mildly) rhyming style goes toe-to-toe with some of RZA’s best production for an hour of aural treats, starting with the audacious “Nutmeg” (which you must play loudly to fully appreciate) and ending with “Cherchez La Ghost,” which might be the most overtly commercial track the Wallabee Champ ever recorded-and it ain’t all that commercial. Banging from start to finish.-Big Money

76) Talib Kweli Quality

(Rawkus/MCA, 2002)

Talib Kweli’s Quality would make my personal list solely for the inclusion of “Get By,” one of the most inspirational, uplifting songs in any genre ever recorded. However, that song is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Brooklyn emcee’s first solo album (he’d released two previous efforts with Mos Def and DJ Hi-Tek.) He was able to snare production from J. Dilla and a young, hungry Kanye West. He brought Black Thought and Pharoahe Monch together to deliver a rhyming seminar on “Guerilla Monsoon Rap,” and even managed to get a hilarious skit from Dave Chappelle as his album intro. Dope enough that he’s one of the few emcees to receive a Jay-Z shout out on record (not to mention an appearance from Jiggaman himself on the “Get By” remix,) Quality more than lives up to its title.-Big Money

75) Biz Markie Biz Is Goin’ Off

(Cold Chillin’, 1988)

Biz Markie has always been one of the most animated artists in Hip Hop. He is originally known for making music with his mouth byway of the Beatbox. In 1988, utilizing his symphonic verbal expressions and comical verses, Biz released his first album Goin’ Off on Cold Chillin’ Records. Speaking of which, his labelmate Big Daddy Kane, contributed to some of the lyrics on the album. As a collection of “fun raps” married to funky tunes contributed by the legendary producer Marley Marl, “Goin’ Off” was recognized for its energetic wittiness for that period of time in Hip Hop which made it stand out above other albums.-June

74) Big Daddy Kane It’s A Big Daddy Thing

(Cold Chillin’, 1989)

Armed with more confidence (as if the already too-smooth-for-cool emcee needed any more) and maturity, Big Daddy Kane reached his commercial apex with It’s a Big Daddy Thing, the Brooklyn emcee’s sophomore release. With classics “Smooth Operator,” “I Get the Job Done,” “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy,” “Wrath of Kane,” and the movie theme “Lean On Me,” it almost reads like a greatest hits record. On this album, Kane indulged in his love for dismantling wack emcees, his love for his community, his love for classic R&B (“To Be Your Man” features vocals from legendary soul group Blue Magic,) and…his love for ladies. “8 to 80, blind, crippled and crazy.” Also worth noting: despite the presence of some of hip-hop’s finest boardsmen like Marley Marl, Easy Mo Bee and Teddy Riley, Kane produced the majority of Big Daddy Thing by himself. Rhyming, producing, and romancing-BDK was a busy man back in the day.-Big Money

73) Kanye West My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy

(Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam, 2010)

Well, folks, after a handful of listens, I can tell you this: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a lot of things. It’s egotistical, it’s messy, it’s sprawling, it’s ostentatious, it’s occasionally clumsy, it’s fairly uncommercial, and if it isn’t the best album I’ve heard so far this year, it’s pretty fucking close.-From our review, 11/24/2010

72) Beastie Boys Check Your Head

(Capitol, 1992)


By the time of their third album, the Beastie Boys had to come up with a new approach. As revolutionary as the sample-laden collage masterpiece Paul’s Boutique may have been, that album was itself an extension of the style present on their 1986 debut. They also couldn’t rely as heavily on the goofy white boy comedy that drenched their first two LPs. Thankfully, the boys scrapped their well worn formula, and instead chose to dust off the instruments from their punk days, relying much more on live instrumentation than sampling for their third disc. This conscious shift away from Licensed to Ill and Paul’s Boutique is what makes Check Your Head so damn refreshing. It still has the characteristic delivery styles of MCA, Mike D., and Ad Rock. But it also had a bit of an edgier tone, a grittier aesthetic, and plenty of head-bobbin’ grooves. For my money, Check Your Head is the Beasties’ masterpiece. Regardless of where the album fits in your own ranking of the Beastie Boys’ discography, it’s clear that Check Your Head proved to the world the the group was much more than a one-trick pony – a major step in cementing the Beastie Boys’ place in hip hop history.-Dr. Gonzo

71) De La Soul Buhloone Mind State

(Tommy Boy, 1993)

I can’t help but listen to Buhloone Mind State and think “wow, they don’t make albums like this anymore”. Despite the fact that their label probably wanted them to throw something that even remotely sounded like a single on this album, De La followed their creative muse and came up with a winner. Buhloone‘s beats were hard enough for the street (is Prince Paul the most underrecognized hip-hop producer ever?) and the lyrics were abstract enough for the alternative-college crowd, which brings me to another point. Buhloone‘s release heralded a mini-era in which three of the greatest “stoner” rap albums of all time were released in a six-month period (with Tribe’s Midnight Marauders and Ill Communication by the Beastie Boys also figuring into that list.)

You probably won’t get it right away. Hell, you might still be figuring out what the lyrics mean years later, like me! One thing you’ll definitely get immediately is the fact that Buhloone Mind State is one of the most creative (musically and lyrically) hip-hop albums of all time, and gave De La Soul their third consecutive excellent (almost perfect) album, a streak only matched by some of the most legendary acts (Public Enemy, Outkast, Tribe) in hip-hop history.

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